This study examined the relative contribution of visual, perceptual, and cognitive skills to the development of expertise in soccer. Elite and sub-elite players, ranging in age from 9 to 17 years, were assessed using a multidimensional battery of tests. Four aspects of visual function were measured: static and dynamic visual acuity; stereoscopic depth sensitivity; and peripheral awareness. Perceptual and cognitive skills were assessed via the use of situational probabilities, as well as tests of anticipation and memory recall. Stepwise discriminant analyses revealed that the tests of visual function did not consistently discriminate between skill groups at any age. Tests of anticipatory performance and use of situational probabilities were the best in discriminating across skill groups. Memory recall of structured patterns of play was most predictive of age. As early as age 9, elite soccer players demonstrated superior perceptual and cognitive skills when compared to their sub-elite counterparts. Implications for training perceptual and cognitive skill in sport are discussed.
Paul Ward and A. Mark Williams
William M. Land, Gershon Tenenbaum, Paul Ward, and Christian Marquardt
Attunement to visual information has been suggested to mediate the performance advantage associated with adopting an external focus of attention (e.g., Al-Abood, Bennett, Moreno Hernandez, Ashford, & Davids, 2002; Magill, 1998). We tested this hypothesis by examining the extent to which online visual information underpins the external focus advantage. The study examined skilled golfers on a putting task under one of three attentional focus conditions: control (no instructions), irrelevant (tone counting), and external (movement effect focus), with either full or occluded vision. In addition to task performance, the effect of attentional focus and vision on between-trial movement variability was examined. We found a significant advantage for an external focus of attention in the absence of vision. The results of the movement variability analysis further indicated that external focus was not mediated by the online use of vision. We discuss these findings in the context of traditional cognitive perspectives to external focus effects.
Erich J. Petushek, Edward T. Cokely, Paul Ward, and Gregory D. Myer
Instrument-based biomechanical movement analysis is an effective injury screening method but relies on expensive equipment and time-consuming analysis. Screening methods that rely on visual inspection and perceptual skill for prognosticating injury risk provide an alternative approach that can significantly reduce cost and time. However, substantial individual differences exist in skill when estimating injury risk performance via observation. The underlying perceptual-cognitive mechanisms of injury risk identification were explored to better understand the nature of this skill and provide a foundation for improving performance. Quantitative structural and process modeling of risk estimation indicated that superior performance was largely mediated by specific strategies and skills (e.g., irrelevant information reduction), and independent of domain-general cognitive abilities (e.g., mental rotation, general decision skill). These cognitive models suggest that injury prediction expertise (i.e., ACL-IQ) is a trainable skill, and provide a foundation for future research and applications in training, decision support, and ultimately clinical screening investigations.
Derek T.Y. Mann, A. Mark Williams, Paul Ward, and Christopher M. Janelle
Research focusing on perceptual-cognitive skill in sport is abundant. However, the existing qualitative syntheses of this research lack the quantitative detail necessary to determine the magnitude of differences between groups of varying levels of skills, thereby limiting the theoretical and practical contribution of this body of literature. We present a meta-analytic review focusing on perceptual-cognitive skill in sport (N = 42 studies, 388 effect sizes) with the primary aim of quantifying expertise differences. Effects were calculated for a variety of dependent measures (i.e., response accuracy, response time, number of visual fixations, visual fixation duration, and quiet eye period) using point-biserial correlation. Results indicated that experts are better than nonexperts in picking up perceptual cues, as revealed by measures of response accuracy and response time. Systematic differences in visual search behaviors were also observed, with experts using fewer fixations of longer duration, including prolonged quiet eye periods, compared with nonexperts. Several factors (e.g., sport type, research paradigm employed, and stimulus presentation modality) significantly moderated the relationship between level of expertise and perceptual-cognitive skill. Practical and theoretical implications are presented and suggestions for empirical work are provided.
Itay Basevitch, Gershon Tenenbaum, Edson Filho, Selen Razon, Nataniel Boiangin, and Paul Ward
The authors tested the notion that expertise effects would be more noticeable when access to situational information was reduced by occluding (i.e., noncued) or freezing (i.e., cued) the environment under temporal constraints. Using an adaptation of tasks developed by Ward, Ericsson, and Williams, the participants viewed video clips of attacking soccer plays frozen or occluded at 3 temporal points and then generated and prioritized situational options and anticipated the outcome. The high-skill players anticipated the outcomes more accurately, generated fewer task-irrelevant options, and were better at prioritizing task-relevant options than their low-skill counterparts. The anticipation scores were significantly and positively correlated with the option prioritization and task-relevant options generated but not with the total options generated. Counter to the authors’ prediction, larger skill-based option-prioritization differences were observed when the play was frozen than when it was occluded. These results indicate that processing environmental information depends on temporal and contextual conditions.